Teton County and town of Jackson planners have recommended rejecting a proposal that re-envisions the character of Hog Island to add more workforce housing.
Larry Huhn, a 40-year resident and owner of Hoback Market, seeks to build 125 to 200 units on 84 acres south of town and adjacent to Munger Mountain Elementary School. The land’s zoning calls for the area to remain rural with some light industrial, but Huhn’s team has submitted an application to amend the community’s Comprehensive Plan.
The proposal will see its first official public hearing Thursday.
Huhn’s group makes the case that a number of factors — construction of the elementary school and its 6-inch sewer line, and the Wyoming Department of Transportation’s expansion of Highway 89 to five lanes — suggests Hog Island’s character has already been altered and the 2012 comp plan’s vision is outdated.
This change in character, combined with the community’s desperate need for workforce housing, demands consideration of new density, Huhn’s team says.
“Our goal is to supply the community with housing options that help average working-class families,” Huhn said in a statement.
Planners are recommending denial, saying the community should stick to its original vision for Hog Island despite infrastructure upgrades.
State agencies like the Wyoming Department of Transportation and the school district aren’t required to consider the county’s vision when planning infrastructure. Adding density in response to development from such actions, planners said, inevitably leads to sprawl.
“Our community comprehensive plans have been consistent in choosing to preserve our character and ecosystem over infrastructure availability consistently over our history of land use planning,” the staff report read. “This application proposes the opposite position/logic for Hog Island, that infrastructure decisions made largely by state institutions should change the direction of the community’s comprehensive plan.”
Workforce housing should be directed to the town of Jackson, as envisioned in the comp plan. Outside town boundaries, other county neighborhoods have better access to services like retail and bus service than Hog Island, planners said.
“Enabling entitlement of units in Hog Island does not create more units,” the staff report said. “It moves units from town, the community’s largest and primary ‘complete neighborhood,’ to a location 8 miles south of town with few services.
“Contrary to the assertions in the application, ‘town as heart’ does not envision town as a central business district surrounded by sprawling bedroom communities.”
Sara Flitner, spokeswoman for the Munger housing project team, said despite planners’ analysis, it’s worth investigating the community’s appetite for Hog Island workforce housing.
“Is housing our workforce locally at some level still a priority?” Flitner said. “Do we get behind the idea that the people who run our hospitals and schools and newspapers and small businesses, do we want them in the community?”
She noted that there hasn’t been a new housing development in the county in decades and that Huhn’s limited contract on the Munger property adds urgency for consideration of the proposal.
Many at a Feb. 7 public meeting supported adding affordable housing, but worried how prices could be kept affordable for workers. Others, like some Hog Island residents, worried increased density would transform the small rural community.
The Teton County and town of Jackson planning commissions will review the proposal at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the Teton County commissioners’ chambers. The Teton County Commission and Jackson Town Council will have final say on the proposal.